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Family Christian World, Inc. v. Olds

Court of Appeals of Indiana

April 17, 2018

Family Christian World, Inc. d/b/a Family Christian Center, Stephan "Steve" Munsey, Melodye J. Munsey, and Darryl Anthony Smith, Appellants-Defendants,
v.
Vicki Olds, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Lake Superior Court The Honorable John R. Pera, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 45D10-1611-CT-191

          Attorney for Appellants Philip E. Kalamaros Hunt Suedhoff Kalamaros LLP Saint Joseph, Michigan.

          Attorney for Appellee Trent A. McCain McCain Law Offices, P.C. Merrillville, Indiana.

          Najam, Judge.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] Family Christian World, Inc., d/b/a Family Christian Center ("FCC"), Stephen Munsey, and Melodye Munsey ("the Munseys") appeal the trial court's denial of their motion to dismiss Vicki Olds' complaint seeking damages for the alleged wrongful death of her daughter, Dominique Olds ("Nikki"). FCC and the Munseys present a single issue for our review, namely, whether the trial court erred when it denied their motion to dismiss, in which they alleged that Nikki was their employee and, thus, that the Worker's Compensation Act provides the exclusive remedy for any claim arising from her death. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] FCC is a church in Munster, and the Munseys are employed by the church as Senior Pastors. Nikki, a full-time student at Valparaiso University, was a member of FCC's congregation. In April and May 2015, FCC hired Nikki "as a babysitter, under the direct supervision of the Munseys."[1] Appellants' App. Vol. II at 16. Nikki filled out an IRS Form W-9[2] when she was hired. Nikki babysat for FCC on five occasions between April 1 and May 20, 2015, [3] both at the FCC church and at the Munseys' private residence, and FCC paid Nikki on each occasion. Nikki did not have a set work schedule with FCC, but she accepted babysitting jobs with FCC if those jobs did not conflict either with her job in the dining hall at Valparaiso University or her classes there.

         [¶3] On May 29, 2015, Nikki was babysitting the Munseys' granddaughter at the Munseys' residence in Schererville. At approximately 3:00 p.m., someone found Nikki "floating face down" and "unresponsive" in the Munseys' swimming pool. Id. at 17. Nikki was transported by ambulance to a hospital, but efforts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful, and she died on June 1.

         [¶4] On November 17, 2016, Olds filed a complaint alleging in relevant part that FCC and the Munseys were liable for Nikki's wrongful death.[4] On December 16, FCC and the Munseys filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Indiana Trial Rule 12(B)(1).[5] In particular, they alleged that Nikki was their employee and, as such, that Olds could only bring a claim against them under the Worker's Compensation Act ("the Act"). The trial court denied that motion following a hearing. This certified interlocutory appeal ensued.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶5] FCC and the Munseys contend that Nikki was their employee and that the Act provides the exclusive remedy for her death, which, they maintain, arose out of and in the course of her employment. Thus, they assert that the trial court is without subject matter jurisdiction to hear Olds' complaint.

         [¶6] The Act is the exclusive means by which an employee, her personal representatives, dependents, or next of kin, at common law or otherwise, can pursue compensation for an employee's injury or death arising out of and in the course of her employment. See Ind. Code § 22-3-2-6 (2018). A defense against a negligence claim on the basis that the plaintiff's exclusive remedy is to pursue a claim for benefits under the Act is properly advanced through a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Indiana Trial Rule 12(B)(1). See Wishard Memorial Hosp. v. Kerr, 846 N.E.2d 1083, 1087 (Ind.Ct.App. 2006). "'In ruling on a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the trial court may consider not only the complaint and motion but also any affidavits or evidence submitted in support.'" Id. (quoting GKN Co. v. Magness, 744 N.E.2d 397, 400 (Ind. 2001)). The trial court may weigh the evidence to resolve the jurisdictional issue. Id.

         [¶7] The standard of appellate review for a Trial Rule 12(B)(1) motion to dismiss is dependent upon what occurred in the trial court, that is: (i) whether the trial court resolved disputed facts; and (ii) if the trial court resolved disputed facts, whether it conducted an evidentiary hearing or ruled on a paper record. Id. Here, the trial court ruled entirely on a paper record. We review de novo a trial court's ruling on a motion to dismiss where the facts before the trial court are disputed and the trial court rules on a paper record. Id.

         [¶8] When challenging the trial court's jurisdiction, the purported employer bears the burden of proving that an alleged employee's claim falls within the scope of the Act unless the complaint demonstrates the existence of an employment relationship. Id. at 1088. Olds' complaint does not state whether Nikki was an employee or independent contractor. Therefore, FCC and the Munseys bore the burden of demonstrating a lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on their claim that Nikki was their employee and Olds' exclusive remedy fell under the Act.[6] See id.

         [¶9] In Moberly v. Day, 757 N.E.2d 1007, 1010-11 (Ind. 2001), our Supreme Court set out a ten-factor analysis to distinguish employees from independent contractors. Those factors are:

(a)the extent of control which, by the agreement, the master may exercise over the details of the work;
(b)whether or not the one employed is engaged in a distinct occupation or business;
(c)the kind of occupation, with reference to whether, in the locality, the work is usually done under the direction of the employer or by a specialist without supervision;
(d)the skill required in the particular occupation;
(e)whether the employer or the workman supplies the instrumentalities, tools, and the place of work for the ...

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